Grocery stores make changes to ensure safety

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKALB — DeKalb and Sycamore grocery stores have made adjustments to their regular operations to ensure safety for employees and customers during the pandemic.

Many stores reserve a time slot for the elderly to collect their items. People over 60 are more likely to have preexisting cardiovascular and respiratory issues, making them more susceptible to COVID-19.

From 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. at Schnucks, 975 S. Annie Glidden Road, only elderly people and those with immune system conditions can shop. At 7 a.m. to 10 p.m the store’s doors open for everyone else.

Jewel Osco, 1320 Sycamore Road, also has hours reserved for the elderly, but only on select days of the week. Store hours are now 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. are reserved for customers 60 and older to collect their items, customer service supervisor Theo Guy said.

In the DeKalb and Sycamore area, when Jewel and Schnucks were closed, people could depend on Walmart, 2300 Sycamore Road, to be open 24 hours, but now store hours have changed to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m, according to the store website.

To ensure customer and employee safety Jewel has put up what’s called sneeze guards: large, plastic screen protectors, around the registers. It works like a glass window, so that a barrier exists between an employee and customer and germs do not get exchanged. Regular transactions, however, like giving money and receiving change still exist, but with the protection of gloves, and hand sanitizer right next to the employee to apply after.

Schnucks has completely shut down self-service stations such as the salad bar and the hot food bar to avoid the possibility of contamination, according to Schnucks Phone Service.

Because of the shortage of materials like masks, gloves and cleaning products, the Jewel store director’s sister made hundreds of washable and reusable masks for everyone at the store, Guy said.

Employees have become meticulous with cleaning at Jewel. Whatever a customer might touch, an employee is sent to wipe it down with proper disinfectant, Guy said. Carts, doors, shelves are all wiped down.

Once the clock hits one hour, employees must wash their hands.

“We only have one entrance now,” Guy said. At the liquor department, there’s a separate door to the rest of the store. “So when a customer enters there, all they can do is go into the liquor department and out the liquor department. They can’t come in the main store.”

Placed outside of Jewel are six feet apart signs, advising customers to stand six feet apart from each other as they wait to enter the store, because only a maximum of 200 people are allowed inside at a time.

At the front of Walmart’s entrance, a counter has been placed. At every location Walmart employees will count customers and admit them one by one, according to Business Insider, to make sure there are no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet of space.

Walmart’s auto service is temporarily closed until further notice so employees can focus on stocking and cleaning the store, according to Walmart’s corporate office. However, customers are still able to purchase tires online and pick them up in the Walmart store.

Schnucks has introduced a new online system to avoid as much in-person interaction and spreading of COVID-19 as possible. Customers can head over to instead of visiting the store. On the website they can choose which items they want, sorted by produce, gluten free, meat and seafood and deli. Once their bag is filled and paid for, the customer can then schedule a time to pick it up.

When a customer arrives for pickup, a Schnucks teammate will deliver the items to the customer’s vehicle, according to a Schnucks news release. A customer has the option to sign up to be a Schnucks Delivers Express member, which waives curbside fees. Non members must pay a fee of $1.99.